Retro Recap: Millionaire Matchmaker

While I recognize that last winter’s reality tv doesn’t sound terribly retro, it is the material of a season already ended, which in show biz, is pretty out of fashion. And as there is a bit of a lull between reality tv’s spring cycle and the summer cycle (and therefore, I’m bored), I thought I’d take us back with a series on some of yesterday’s best and worst creations:

While trying to catch episodes of my Bravo-network favorite, Project Runway, last winter, I frequently stumbled upon something called The Millionaire Matchmaker, which follows entrepreneur Patti Stanger’s Millionaire’s Club, a dating service for – you guessed it – millionaires. Sounds simple enough and right on par with TV execs’ obsession with showing us the privileged but dramatic lives of rich people, right? But the show quickly reminds us there is no materialism like gendered materialism!

I was surprised to find that this Millionaire’s Club, is not, it turns out, simply a service for rich and powerful men and women to meet and search for the sparks of romance. Should I really have expected any gender neutrality when it came to a show about dating and money? What Stanger means by “millionaires,” is “millionaire men,” and when she says it’s her job to find them “love,” what she means is to find them hot women who are neither wealthy nor particularly successful. In fact, as I learned watching her interview potential matches for her millionaire clients, the opposite is desired. Stanger told one woman who introduced herself as a doctor to lose the doctor bit because “men don’t want to compete in the bedroom.” Wait, what does being a doctor have to do with competition or the bedroom? Kinky, Patti. Very kinky.

In addition to telling us what it is men want and don’t want, Stanger breaks down what women want, informing one client that no woman will want to date him because he lives in a modest home rather than a flashy apartment.

Are men really so put off by dating intelligent women? Are women really so vain? Why is the expected counterpart to a wealthy man a beautiful woman, rather than a wealthy woman? These stereotypes could be obliterated if people like Stanger didn’t insist on policing the gendered standards of success like it’s her job – even though, I guess technically it is.